You’re probably aware of the famous Pareto Principle that says that in many situations 20 percent of your efforts will account for 80 percent of your success. This means that if you have ten things to accomplish today, odds are that two of them will be worth more to your success than the other eight combined.
Focus on two
One secret to success is having the discipline to focus on the smaller number of tasks that will contribute the most to your goals. You need to constantly ask yourself what the most important task is to your success right now – and work on that task. It might sound easy, but for most people it’s not. Often times the small number of tasks that will have the most impact are the ones that are easiest to put off, so you work on the other less important ones, either because they’re easy or because someone is putting pressure on you to complete them. Meanwhile, your day slips away and those two most important tasks get put off until tomorrow. And so it repeats day after day and you never reach your goals.
Treat your task like an appointment
One trick to address this problem is force yourself to allocate a fixed amount of time each day to only work on the important two tasks. Go as far as to actually schedule an appointment with yourself for a specific start time and duration. Treat this block of time just like you would an appointment with an important client. Don’t take calls, don’t accept interruptions, don’t start cleaning your inbox – all the same behaviors you probably adhere to when you’re sitting with a client (or at least I hope you do). It’s not easy, but it does work.
Start your day with success
Another trick that works is to force yourself to start your day a little earlier and only allow work to be done on your most important tasks. One nice thing about this tactic is that normally there are fewer interruptions in this special block of time, since people don’t expect you to be working then anyway. For example if you can roll out of bed at 6am and allocate a solid hour to just these important tasks, there’s little chance that someone is going to feel comfortable interrupting you with a phone call. Plus it feels great to complete an important task first thing in the morning, makes you feel like the day was spent well, even if you don’t accomplish anything else that day.
Each day make a list of the top 10 things you need to get done and order them by priority. Not what someone else thinks is priority, but what you think is priority based on the goals you’re trying to achieve. Then focus on the first two using whatever methods necessary. Try to achieve those top two and use the Pareto Principle to your advantage each day.